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Scott: The First Old Man and the Hind

[Go back to The Merchant and The Genie]

I shall begin my story then; listen to me, I pray you, with attention. This hind you see is my cousin; nay, what is more, my wife. She was only twelve years of age when I married her, so that I may justly say, she ought to regard me equally as her father, her kinsman, and her husband.

We lived together twenty years, without any children. Her barrenness did not effect any change in my love; I still treated her with much kindness and affection. My desire of having children only induced me to purchase a slave, by whom I had a son, who was extremely promising. My wife being jealous, cherished a hatred for both mother and child, but concealed her aversion so well, that I knew nothing of it till it was too late.

Mean time my son grew up, and was ten years old, when I was obliged to undertake a long journey. Before I went, I recommended to my wife, of whom I had no mistrust, the slave and her son, and prayed her to take care of them during my absence, which was to be for a whole year. She however employed that time to satisfy her hatred. She applied herself to magic, and when she had learnt enough of that diabolical art to execute her horrible design, the wretch carried my son to a desolate place, where, by her enchantments, she changed him into a calf, and gave him to my farmer to fatten, pretending she had bought him. Her enmity did not stop at this abominable action, but she likewise changed the slave into a cow, and gave her also to my farmer.

At my return, I enquired for the mother and child. "Your slave," said she, "is dead; and as for your son, I know not what is become of him, I have not seen him this two months." I was afflicted at the death of the slave, but as she informed me my son had only disappeared, I was in hopes he would shortly return. However, eight months passed, and I heard nothing of him. When the festival of the great Bairam was to be celebrated, I sent to my farmer for one of the fattest cows to sacrifice. He accordingly sent me one, and the cow which was brought me proved to be my slave, the unfortunate mother of my son. I bound her, but as I was going to sacrifice her, she bellowed piteously, and I could perceive tears streaming from her eyes. This seemed to me very extraordinary, and finding myself moved with compassion, I could not find in my heart to give her a blow, but ordered my farmer to get me another.

My wife, who was present, was enraged at my tenderness, and resisting an order which disappointed her malice, she cried out, "What are you doing, husband? Sacrifice that cow; your farmer has not a finer, nor one fitter for the festival." Out of deference to my wife, I came again to the cow, and combating my compassion, which suspended the sacrifice, was going to give her the fatal blow, when the victim redoubling her tears, and bellowing, disarmed me a second time. I then put the mallet into the farmer's hands, and desired him to take it and sacrifice her himself, for her tears and bellowing pierced my heart.

The farmer, less compassionate than myself; sacrificed her; but when he flayed her, found her to be nothing except bones, though to she seemed very fat. "Take her yourself," said I to him, "dispose of her in alms, or any way you please: and if you have a very fat calf, bring it me in her stead." I did not enquire what he did with the cow, but soon after he had taken her away, he returned with a fat calf. Though I knew not the calf was my son, yet I could not forbear being moved at the sight of him. On his part, as soon as he beheld me, he made so great an effort to come near me, that he broke his cord, threw himself at my feet, with his head against the ground, as if he meant to excite my compassion, conjuring me not to be so cruel as to take his life; and did as much as was possible for him, to signify that he was my son.

I was more surprised and affected with this action, than with the tears of the cow. I felt a tender pity, which interested me on his behalf, or rather, nature did its duty. "Go," said I to the farmer, "carry home that calf, take great care of him, and bring me another in his stead immediately."

As soon as my wife heard me give this order, she exclaimed, "What are you about, husband? Take my advice, sacrifice no other calf but that." "Wife," I replied, "I will not sacrifice him, I will spare him, and pray do not you oppose me." The wicked woman had no regard to my wishes; she hated my son too much to consent that I should save him. I tied the poor creature, and taking up the fatal knife, was going to plunge it into my son's throat, when turning his eyes bathed with tears, in a languishing manner, towards me, he affected me so much that I had not strength to kill him. I let the knife fall, and told my wife positively that I would have another calf to sacrifice, and not that. She used all her endeavours to persuade me to change my resolution; but I continued firm, and pacified her a little, by promising that I would sacrifice him against the Bairam of the following year.

The next morning my farmer desired to speak with me alone. "I come," said he, "to communicate to you a piece of intelligence, for which I hope you will return me thanks. I have a daughter that has some skill in magic. Yesterday, as I carried back the calf which you would not sacrifice, I perceived she laughed when she saw him, and in a moment after fell a weeping. I asked her why she acted two such opposite parts at one and the same time. ' rather,' replied she, ' the calf you bring back is our landlord's son; I laughed for joy to see him still alive, and wept at the remembrance of the sacrifice that was made the other day of his mother, who was changed into a cow. These two metamorphoses were made by the enchantments of our master's wife, who hated both the mother and son.' This is what my daughter told me," said the farmer, "and I come to acquaint you with it."

I leave you to judge how much I was surprised. I went immediately to my farmer, to speak to his daughter myself. As soon as I arrived, I went forthwith to the stall where my son was kept; he could not return my embraces, but received them in such a manner, as fully satisfied me he was my son.

The farmer's daughter then came to us: "My good maid," said I, "can you restore my son to his former shape?" "Yes," she replied, "I can." "Ah!" said I, "if you do, I will make you mistress of all my fortune." She answered me, smiling, "You are our master, and I well know what I owe to you; but I cannot restore your son to his former shape, except on two conditions: the first is, that you give him to me for my husband; and the second, that you allow me to punish the person who changed him into a calf." "As to the first," I replied, "I agree with all my heart: nay, I promise you more, a considerable fortune for yourself, independently of what I design for my son: in a word, you shall see how I will reward the great service I expect from you. As to what relates to my wife, I also agree; a person who has been capable of committing such a criminal action, justly deserves to be punished. I leave her to your disposal, only I must pray you not to take her life." "I am going then," answered she, "to treat her as she treated your son." "To this I consent," said I, "provided you first of all restore to me my son."

The damsel then took a vessel full of water, pronounced over it words that I did not understand, and addressing herself to the calf, "O calf, if thou west created by the almighty and sovereign master of the world such as thou appearest at this time, continue in that form; but if thou be a man, and art changed into a calf by enchantment, return to thy natural shape, by the permission of the sovereign Creator." As she spoke, she threw water upon him, and in an instant he recovered his natural form.

"My son, my dear son," cried I, immediately embracing him with such a transport of joy that I knew not what I was doing, "it is heaven that hath sent us this young maid, to remove the horrible charm by which you were enchanted, and to avenge the injury done to you and your mother. I doubt not but in acknowledgment you will make your deliverer your wife, as I have promised." He joyfully consented; but before they married, she changed my wife into a hind; and this is she whom you see here. I desired she might have this shape, rather than another less agreeable, that we might see her in the family without horror.

Since that time, my son is become a widower, and gone to travel. It being now several years since I heard of him, I am come abroad to inquire after him; and not being willing to trust anybody with my wife, till I should return home, I thought fit to take her everywhere with me.

"This is the history of myself and this hind: is it not one of the most wonderful and surprising?" "I admit it is," said the genie, "and on that account forgive the merchant one third of his crime."

When the first old man had finished his story, the second, who led the two black dogs, addressed the genie, and said: "I am going to tell you what happened to me, and these two black dogs you see by me; and I am certain you will say, that my story is yet more surprising than that which you have just heard. But when I have done this, I hope you will be pleased to pardon the merchant another third of his offence." "I will," replied the genie, "provided your story surpass that of the hind." Then the second old man began in this manner--

[Go to The Second Old Man and the Two Black Dogs]

Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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